In a previous article, we briefly discussed the Lord’s Supper, in substance, importance, and instruction, which is outlined in 1 Corinthians 11. We also examined Paul’s definition of what an unworthy practice of the Lord’s Supper is. Here we will examine the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, which in a general sense they refer to as the Eucharist (Greek, “thanksgiving”—thus, the action of thanksgiving to God).

 

The action of receiving the elements (i.e., the actual eating and drinking of the bread and wine) of the sacrament of the Eucharist is called the “Holy Communion”. However, as you will see, the Roman practice of the so-called Holy Communion is anything but a “Holy” Eucharist to God. It is a blasphemous practice that

1) rejects the biblical view that the “once for all time” atoning sacrifice of Christ alone was sufficient for salvation and was the very ground of justification (apart from man-works) and

2) the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation, as explicated hereafter, deforms and dismembers the incarnation of Christ.

 

Transubstantiation

Rome holds to a distinctive doctrine called, Transubstantiation. In short, this Roman Catholic  theological position is where the  priests who preside at the Eucharist (or Lord’s Supper”), “consecrate the bread and the wine so [that these elements actually] become the Body and Blood of the Lord…. By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [hereafter, CCC], 1411, 13).

 

So according to Catholicism, when Jesus said, “This is My body” (Matt. 26:26), and “This is My blood” (v. 28), and “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19), He instituted the so-called Mass,[1] and gave the apostles, and thus, all future Catholic priests, the power to change (transubstantiate) the bread and wine into Jesus literal body and blood (New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism  [hereafter, BC], vol. 2, Q. 354, cf. also Q. 355). [2] But note, this so-called changing of the bread and wine into the actual and literal flesh and blood of Jesus did not, Rome argues, involve a change in appearance or taste. The BC (Q. 348) states: “After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into Our Lord’s body and blood, they remained only the appearances of bread and wine.”

 
Theological Heresies of the Transubstantial Eucharist

 Rome’s doctrine of the transubstantial Eucharist, a) presents a perpetual re-sacrificing of Christ, and b) it deforms and confuses the incarnation of Christ.  

First, the notion of the Eucharist as an ongoing sacrifice clearly,   

 

  • Rejects any idea of a “once for all time” or “finished” atoning sacrifice accomplished by His perfect life and cross work.

 

  • Rejects the sufficiency of the glorious cross work of Christ for both the forgiveness of sins and the averting of wrath due to us because of our sin.

 

  • Rejects the notion that sinners are justified though the death of the Son and not according to works.  

 

Note for example, the repetitious way Rome uses the terms such as “sacrifice,” “re-presents,” “propitiation” defining the effects of the Eucharist:    

 

“The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same, and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ” (BC, vol. 2, Q. 360).

“The Eucharist is also a sacrifice” (CCC, 1365).

“The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross” (CCC, 1366).

“The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice,” (CCC, 1367).

 

The Eucharist, according to Rome, is propitiatory (i.e., forgiving sins and removing the wrath of God): “This sacrifice [Eucharist] is truly propitiatory” (CCC, 1367).

“The Church intends the Mass to be regarded as a ‘true and proper sacrifice’” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Sacrifice of the Mass”; emphasis added).

Clearly, Rome sees the Eucharist as a “sacrifice,” which is offered through the hands of the priests: “The sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests’ hands” (CCC, 1369, also cf. 1414).

 

The Roman system of the transubstantial Eucharist is an insufficient sacrifice that is offered continuously by sinful Roman priests. This, clearly controverts and attacks the biblical presentation of the once for all time atoning accomplishment of Christ, as He Himself affirmed—“It is finished.”

 

The Roman “Christ” is not able to save a sinner in and of Himself by grace alone through faith alone—apart from human efforts. Nor is the redemptive work of Christ in Romanism the very ground of the believer’s justification.

 

Biblically, a sinner is “declared” righteous before God not through works such as water baptism, nor through the sinful hands of the Roman priests in their representing the sacrifice of Christ at the Mass; rather it is through faith alone. Paul rightly says: “just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6) “Through the [one time] obedience [atoning work] of the One the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).

 

Neither the church, Mary, Roman priests, nor anything or anyone can mediate between God and man. Only the two-natured person (God-man), Jesus Christ is able to be the Mediator:

“For there is one God, and one Mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).   

 

To emphasize the infinitely completed redemptive propitiatory work of the Christ, the author of Hebrews uses the Greek term ephapax (ἐφάπαξ) which means “once for all” (from epi, “upon” + hapax, “once, one”). Thus (lexically), “Taking place once and to the exclusion of any further occurrence, once for all, once and never again (BDAG), or “upon one occasion only” (Thayer).

 

The author of Hebrews (and Paul in Rom. 6:10) teaches that the sacrifice of Christ as the eternal priest was ephapax (“once for all time”)—for all other OT priestly systems (Aaronic and Levitical) were lesser, imperfect, and obsolete (Heb. 7:11, 23-28). Note the following passages:   

“who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did ephapax [‘once for all time’] when He offered up Himself (Heb. 7:27).

“and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place ephapax [‘once for all time’] having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12).

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ephapax [‘once for all time’!].11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14). 

 

The ephapax [“once for all time”] and Paul’s doctrine of justification through faith alone, shows in and of itself that the Roman Mass where the Eucharist is a repetitive propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ is an offensive attack on Christ and His one-time finished atoning work.        

    

The second theological heresy of Rome’s doctrine of Transubstantiation is the deformation of the incarnation of Christ. The Roman Church happily agrees that Jesus became flesh. However, in Romanism, the “flesh” that Jesus became is anything, but normal human flesh and likeness. Because, as Rome teaches, the elements in the Eucharist (bread and wine) actually transubstantiates (viz. changes into the non-figurative literal flesh and blood of Christ). Hence, wherever in the world Catholics are receiving the Eucharist (“Holy Communion”) at the Mass, the literal body and blood is being sacrificed at the hand of the priests. This clearly implies that Jesus’ physical body is ubiquitous—namely, its able to be in multiple places simultaneously!

 

A ubiquitous anomalous human nature sharply counters the biblical teaching that the eternal Word became the perfect representation of man—not a “hyper-flesh” ubiquitous fleshly body: “The Word became flesh…. being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man” (John 1:14; Phil. 2:7-8).

 

Rome’s doctrine of the transubstantial Eucharist is an idolatrous practice that mocks and rejects both the substitutionary work of Christ as the alone means of justification and manipulates the biblical view of the incarnation of the Son—who “emptied Himself, taking the form [real nature] of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [not in the likeness of a unusual ubiquitous man]. Being found in appearance as a [normal] man” (Phil. 2:7-8).          

 

Those who partake in the Roman Eucharist are

1) proclaiming the Jesus of Rome who did not take the nature of normal humanity, and

2) proclaiming the impotent Jesus of Rome whose atoning work was neither sufficient nor perfectly completed. Thus, they would be celebrating that which Paul condemned as anathema (cursed) in Galatians 1:8, 9 (viz. the faith + works system of the Judaizers).

 

Christians, in stark contrast, proclaim the Jesus of the NT: “Through the obedience of the One [Christ] the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19); “having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God”! (Heb. 10:12; cf. Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).      

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

 

Sola Gratia, Solo Christo, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria

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NOTES

[1] In Catholicism, the Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist, where Catholics participate together in “Holy Communion.”     

[2] In support of their erroneous doctrine of Transubstantiation, Catholics appeal to John 6:53-54. However, Jesus had already defined what He meant here back in verse 35, where Jesus refers to Himself as the “Bread of Life” – “he who comes to Me will not hunger [thus, coming to Him is equivalent to ‘eating His flesh’], and he who believes in Me will never thirst [thus, believing in Him is equivalent to ‘drinking His blood’].” Further, unlike the Synoptics, the Gospel John never even records Jesus’ institution of the Last Supper. Further, the historical time frame of the institution of the Lord’s Super would have been not until John 13, which was a different context than that of chapter 6, and at least one year later! In his Commentary on John, Calvin pointed out, “Indeed, it would have been inept and unreasonable to preach about the Lord’s Supper before He had instituted it.”               

 

The first century church was built on two things: love and doctrine. Without love, we actively disobey the Lord (cf. Mark 12:29-30; 1 John 3:15ff.). By loving others “the whole law is fulfilled” (Gal. 5:14; cf. Rom. 13:8-10) and our “actual” justification before God (through faith alone) is demonstrated before man—, which was James’ entire argument in chapter 2.

But if a church or the spiritual life of Christian is all love, then theological confusion arises and thus, the significance and definition of the gospel becomes mottled and impractical.

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Sociologically, Samaritans were lowly and unpopular people, which intensifies the point of Jesus’ parallel. Starting in Luke 10:25-27, we read:

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Note the lawyer’s question regarding eternal life and Jesus’ response: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (see Mark 12:29-30 for the full commandment).

Verses 28-29: “And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live’ 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” In response, Jesus presents the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Verse 30a: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Although this journey from “Jerusalem to Jericho” was about 17 miles, it was recognized as a very dangerous road that ran through areas of lone desert; where many robbers could hide. Jerome later termed this road as “the bloody way.” Lightfoot says that this was the “most public road in all Judea.”

Verse 30: “…and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.” The term striped (lit., “having stripped”) is from ekduō (ek, “out” + duō, “garment”). —thus, “to strip out/off ones clothes/garments.” The same term is applied to Christ in Matthew 27:28: “They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.”

Verse 31: “And by chance, a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” The most frequent travelers on this road were priests and Levites. There is no reason stated as to why the priest refused to help him, but it is not significant to the point of the parable.

The phrase, “he passed by on the other side” is from antiparēlthen (lit. “he passed by on the opposite side”). The text implies that the priest actually went “on the other side,”—out of his way, totally avoiding the scene altogether.

Verse 32: “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” Here the Levite “saw him,” then passed by.” The two aorist participles, “having come” and “having seen” imply that the Levite took a “fast peek” then left in a hurry— note again as with the priest, the same term antiparēlthen is used: “he passed by the opposite side.” A. T. Robertson observes that this indicates “a vivid and powerful picture of the vice of Jewish ceremonial cleanliness at the cost of moral principle and duty. The Levite in Luke 10:32 behaved precisely as the priest had done and for the same reason.”

Verse 33: “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion. . . .” The least likely person (in contrast to the grander priest and Levite), the Samaritan felt compassion. When the Samaritan “saw him, he felt, that is, he was “moved to compassion.” The two verbs (both in the aorist) “having seen” and“moved to compassion” denote a simultaneous action. In contrast to the two actions of the priest and Levite: “having seen,” “he passed by the opposite side.”

The action of the Samaritan (“felt, moved to compassion”) appears in the aorist indicative—from splagchnizomai. This verb literally denotes the inward parts of a body. Thayer defines the verb here as: “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence, to be moved with compassion.” In fact, this term is frequently used of Christ in response to individual(s) suffering (see Matt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; 9:22). As also in Luke 7:13: “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion [lit., “was moved to deep compassion”] for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

The Samaritan Difference

The Samaritan felt compassion for this man—expressed love for him (again keeping with the context of the text—love for God and neighbors).

“Showing” loving-compassionate actions towards others demonstrates one’s actual justification (salvation) greater than that of praising God, singing hymns on Sunday morning, endless praying, etc. Loving others (by actions, overtly) proves one’s faith as true (as the Apostle James argues). Calvin says, “Though the worship of God is greatly preferable, and is more valuable than all the duties of a holy life, yet its outward exercises ought not to be estimated so highly as to swallow up brotherly kindness.”

Note the next verse (34): where we find that Samaritan shows six acts of love/compassion:

  1. Bandaged up his wounds. 
  2. Pouring oil and wine on them.
  3. Put him on his own beast (animal).
  4. Brought him to an Inn.
  5. Took care of him.
  6. He made sure the innkeepers took care of him.

Jesus then asked in verse 36: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” Keep in mind as to the question to Jesus from the lawyer, that is, the religious expert, in verse 29: “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Here, Jesus turns the question around to the religious expert to a question of what it means to become a neighbor and truly (and openly) loving. Jesus is showing the religious expert of the law that it is irrelevant as to who the neighbor is, but rather, who he is (the religious expert) and his actions are what matters. 

Verse 37: “And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, Go and do the same.’”

In a broad context, the priest and Levite representing the OT law would not or could not deliver a man from his pain and suffering. In a wider sense, the OT law could never redeem man or provide to God a ransom for him—that was never the intention of the law; it was powerless to do so—it only condemned (cf. Heb. 7-10).

In John 8:48, the Jews called Jesus a “Samaritan.” However, unrecognizable to the Jews, the similarities of Christ and the parable are remarkable:

  • As the traveler went “down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” Christ made a journey coming down from heaven to earth, became flesh “being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).
  • He came as powerful Savior to do what the priests and the Levites (OT law) would not nor could not do.
  • Through His vicarious life and death Christ (unlike the priest and the Levite) provided redemption, rest, healing, and everlasting “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1).Christ, out of compassion for His people, came to save perfectly all that the Father gave to Him and loses no one, but raises “it up at the last day” (John 6:39).
  • As the Samaritan “brought the wounded man to an Inn and took care of him,” Christ brings His sheep, yet wounded from the effects of sin, to an eternal dwelling place that He prepared for them.

In this sense, Jesus Christ was the ultimate “Samaritan.” His motivation for His atonement (vicarious redemptive work) was His love and compassion for lost dying (dead) sinners—He lived and died on their behalf. Christ is our only means of peace. In whom “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Eph. 1:7).

Christ, the ultimate Samaritan who saved us!